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Micro vs Macro Economics cover

Micro vs Macro Economics -What’s the Difference?

Economics is the study of how humans use limited resources (land, labor, capital and enterprise) to manufacture goods and services and satisfy their unlimited needs and distribute it among themselves. It is divided into two broad branches, microeconomics and macroeconomics.

Each branch has its own policies and regulations relating to different sectors such as agriculture, labor market and the government. Microeconomics is the study of the behavior of an individual, firm or household in the market while macroeconomics is the study of the economy as a whole- that is, the individuals, households and firms collectively.

What is Microeconomics?

Microeconomics was first introduced by the economist Adam Smith and is the study of the economy at a lower level, it is commonly termed the ‘bottom-up’ approach. This branch of economics focuses on how decisions made by people and organizations can affect the economy as a whole. As individuals, we make numerous decisions everyday from what clothes to wear to what food to eat. These decisions are made by the different agents in the economy and serve as the basis for microeconomists to study how they affect supply and demand and ultimately the economy as a whole.

Tools such as supply, demand, consumer behavior, spending and purchasing power of people are used by economists to build models that they base their learnings on, one such model is the supply and demand curve. By understanding the buying and spending habits of people, economists come up with various theories to understand relationships between different elements and how these small parts fit into the larger picture.

However, in the real world, things are different and cannot always be represented through a model. Hence some economists study subsets of microeconomics such as human behavior which is the actions taken by an individual when making a decision and the behavioral model which uses disciplines such as psychology and sociology to understand how people make decisions.

Since microeconomics is the study of the economy at a lower level, many people use it as a starting point for learning economics. The theories used in microeconomics are then used to study the economy at a larger scale- also known as macroeconomics.

Also read: What is Top Down and Bottom Up approach in stock investing?

What is Macroeconomics?

While microeconomics is a bottom-up approach, macroeconomics is considered a top-down approach as it is the study of the economy on a larger scale. Prior to 1929, many economists only studied microeconomics (people’s individual decisions) however after the crash of 1929 (aka the great depression), many economists were unable to explain its cause. They found that there were forces in the economy, which based on people’s decisions, could have a positive and negative impact. In addition to looking at individual decisions, it was also important to look at the big picture.

Macroeconomics is the study of larger issues affecting the economy such as economic growth, unemployment, trade, inflation, recessions and how decisions made by the government can affect the economy. For example, the Central Bank creates their interest rate policies based on the macroeconomic conditions in the country and around the world.

John Maynard Keynes is considered the founding father of Macroeconomics and his understanding of the subject was largely influenced by the Great Depression. During the 1930s Keynes wrote an essay titled The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money where he outlined the broad principles of Macroeconomics that led to the development of Keynesian economics. Keynesian economics are macroeconomic theories about how during a recession, in the short run, the output is influenced by the aggregate demand in the economy. Milton Freidman another pioneer of macroeconomics used monetary policy to explain the reasons for the depression.

Micro vs Macro Economics -The key differences

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As mentioned earlier, microeconomics is the study of individual and household decisions and the issues they face. This could be analyzing the demand for a certain good or service and how this affects the production levels of a company. It could also be the study of effects of certain regulations on a business.

While macroeconomics is the study of the economy as a whole. This involves looking at the gross domestic product (GDP) of the economy, the unemployment rates and the effects of inflation, deflation and monetary policy. For example, they may look at how an increase in taxes can affect the economy using the GDP, national income and inflation rate as a metric rather than individual factors.

Microeconomics is useful for determining the prices of goods and services in the economy along with the costs of the factors of production (land, labor, capital) while macroeconomics helps maintain price stability and creates policy to resolve problems dealing with unemployment, inflation and deflation.

However, both micro and macroeconomics come with their limitations. For example, the study of microeconomics assumes that there is full employment in the economy. This can lead to unrealistic theories as this is never true. In macroeconomics, there is a fallacy of composition where economists assume that what is true for an individual is true for the economy as a whole. However, in the real world, the aggregate factors may not be true for individuals too.

Micro and macroeconomics are interlinked

By definition, microeconomics and macroeconomics cover completely different aspects of the economy and while this is true, the two fields are similar and also interdependent on each other.

When dealing with inflation, many people think of it as a macroeconomic theory as it deals with interest rate and monetary policy. However, inflation is an important part of microeconomics because as inflation raises the prices of goods and services, it reduces the purchasing power that affects many individuals and businesses in the economy. Like inflation, government reforms such as minimum wage and tax rates have large implications in microeconomics.

Another similarity in microeconomics is the distribution of the limited resources. Microeconomics studies how the resources are distributed among individuals while macroeconomics studies how they are distributed among groups that consist of individuals.

Also read: How Does The Stock Market Affect The Economy?

Conclusion:

Although micro and macroeconomics affect different levels of the economy and cover different policies, they are in fact two sides of the same coin and often overlap each other. The most important distinction is their approach to the economy. Microeconomics is ‘bottom-up’ and macroeconomics is ‘top-down.’

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5 Incredibly Inspiring Tips From The Top Women in Finance

It is no secret that the finance sector is a fast-paced, competitive environment where it’s survival of the fittest. When you factor in gender dominance into the equation, there are often more hurdles that women need to overcome to find long-term success in the industry.

According to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap report in 2017, ‘female talent remains one of the most underutilized business resources’ and this is especially true in the finance sector where although 46 percent of the industry are women, they only represent 15 percent of executive level positions.

While this statistic is shocking, it’s true. There are many women in Finance who believe that the right personality traits, qualities and skills, regardless of gender, can get you to the top of your career. Here are a few career tips from the top successful women in Finance:

Network, Network, Network

As they say, ‘it’s about who you know, not what you know.’ Getting to the top of your game in the financial industry involves having a broad network of connections. According to Sally Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, it is the number one rule for success in business- for both men and women.

Building a strong network requires time and patience and a lot of hard work on your part. Your professional network can include people from all walks of life, who share the same passions as you and can help you achieve all your career goals. But networking is a two-way street so while you reach out to others for help, you should develop a mutually beneficial relationship and aim to be their ‘go-to’ person at a time of need. You’ll find that your kindness will be repaid in multifold.

Find your passion and work towards it

Do what you love and you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Before you take up a job, be it in finance or any other industry, you need to make sure you are passionate about what you are doing. This is exactly what Edie Hunt, the Chief Diversity Officer at Goldman Sachs, did. She always looked for opportunities that highlighted her passions and aligned with her personal and professional goals. Hunt believes that if you are passionate about your job, there’s a high chance that you will be good at it.

However, Wei Sun Christianson of Morgan Stanley says you should not fill your goals with only passions as you may hit a rough patch during your career and can get disheartened. When chasing your dreams it is important to be driven and develop a versatile skill set to get that job!

Never stop learning

The opportunity to learn new things every day is a driving factor for many in their career. Elle Kaplan, the CEO of LexION capital says that her ‘deep-seated intellectual curiosity’ is a motivating factor to learn new things every day. For her, the financial markets are always changing and they are constantly impacted by a variety of elements from politics, to current events and even climate change. Keeping up with the constant changes in the markets gives her the opportunity to soak up a wealth of knowledge every day.

The gender gap presents an opportunity

It comes as no surprise that the finance sector is a ‘boys club’ and women often find it a challenge break into the industry. Francesca Frederico of Twelve Point Wealth Management says that with the right outlook on life, you can turn a challenge into an opportunity. Instead of trying to fit into a male dominated environment, use your expertise and skills to do things your way. Women need to think outside the box, be more willing to take risks and follow their dreams. Not only is it an enlightening feeling to be yourself, but you will see that not doing things a certain way is not always the right way.

Take the risk

The greater the risk, the greater the reward. In order to find success in the finance world, women need to trust their gut and take the risks to get the most out of their career. Although you may face many trials and tribulations to the top, you need to follow your instincts and take the leap of faith to reap big rewards. At the end of the day, your journey of risk-taking should lead you to a job that you are passionate about.

Also read: 5 Psychology Traps that Investors Need to Avoid

Bonus: It’s not always about the money, focus on making a change

This does not just apply to jobs in the financial industry but to any job you have in your life. While paying your bills is important, you need to use your knowledge to make a difference in the lives of the people around you. Many financial leaders use their skills to educate people on wealth management and investing. This is a system that is a necessity for many people in world as nearly a majority of the population has a hard time saving money.

Although there is a gender gap, there are still many women blazing a trail in the finance industry, they took the risks and fought for what they believed in, ultimately making their mark. The future is bright for women in finance and it is up to us to find our passions and work diligently towards them. So this Women’s Day encourage the women around you and climb higher mountains and celebrate each other’s successes.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” —Harriet Tubman

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Emergency fund: Why and How to build one?

Growing up, we’re often told to save for a rainy day. As kids, many of us didn’t heed this advice, choosing instead, to spend our money on the next best toy or video game. However, it is only when we grow older that we realize the importance of the values our parents instilled in us.

Learning how to save money from a young age is known to have numerous benefits. For one, it teaches you the value of money and motivates you to work towards your goal of buying a new book or a video game you really want. While kids put their money into a piggy bank for a rainy day, adults use the same principle to save their money in a bank account known as an Emergency Fund.

What is an Emergency Fund?

As the name suggests, an emergency fund is money that you put aside for emergencies. It is the money that you can reach out to during your hour of need and pay for those unforeseen and unexpected expenses such loss of a primary job (the main source of income), medical emergency, personal emergencies or even a car breakdown. You need to have a solid financial plan for the future and an emergency fund is an essential tool in helping you do just that.

Many people often find it hard to grasp the concept of saving for an unexpected circumstance as it is much easier to live in the movement and spend money on the things you love- money buys happiness, right? But an emergency fund can help you in darkest hour and statistics provide the proof. According to a report by the Federal Reserve on Economic Wellbeing in the U.S. Households in 2015 showed that when faced with an emergency of $400, 47% of Americans had a hard time coming up with the money without using their credit card or borrowing from family and friends. This shocking statistic is reason enough to start working on that emergency fund immediately.

The financial experts recommend that before you start making investments for your long-term goals, first you should build an emergency fund which should be greater than at least three times your monthly expenses. In other words, even if you lose your primary source of income, you should be able to survive at least three months through your emergency fund. For example, if your monthly expense is equal to $2,500, then you should have at least $7,500 in your emergency fund. It would be even better if you can build an emergency fund to cover six months of your expenses as it will reduce the need to draw from high-interest debt options, such as credit cards.

Moreover, this fund should be highly liquid i.e. readily accessible in case of emergency situation. A few good options to build your emergency fund is via savings account or money market funds. Additionally, avoid investing your emergency fund in instruments with lock-in periods or those which are subjected to penalties in case of early withdrawal.

How to build an emergency fund?

By now you understand why an emergency fund is so important and want to create one for yourself. Building an emergency fund is incredibly easy and only requires some discipline and resilience on your part.

So how do we do this? Like with all other things in life we need to start small. Here are a few ways to help you get started:

1. Big things have small beginnings

Saving is key to having a financially secure future and have an emergency fund is an important part of this. Saving a large amount of money for an expense that may or may not happen in the future is a hard thing to do. So take baby steps with your fund and start with saving small amounts of money. This could even be as low as $30-$50 dollars a month as long as you are actively putting away money for the future. Although you start out small, you need to have a goal as to how much money you would ultimately want to have in your emergency fund. Setting a fixed goal makes it easier to work towards it.

2. You don’t need all that coffee

Many people live paycheck to paycheck and often find it hard to put away money for the future. If you find yourself in such a situation, you need to look at your existing expenses and try to cut back on what is unnecessary. You can start by accounting for your expenses every day and putting them into different buckets. This can help you identify areas that you spend too much money on like all that expensive coffee or those frequent restaurant meals. If you are really trying to build that rainy day fun, try cooking all your meals at home for at least 5 days a week.

3. Automate it!

To successfully build an emergency fund you need to control your expenses and put away a certain amount of your paycheck every month. While this is easier said than done, one way to make the process simpler is by having an automatic transfer of a fixed amount from your bank account every month. This serves two purposes, one, the amount in your bank account will be lower meaning that your expenses will be in control and two, you won’t even have to think twice about putting away money since the process is now automated!

4. Get creative with saving

As you begin to get more serious about building your emergency fund, you can find new and creative ways to save money. When you begin to assess your income and spending, you may find some unnecessary leaks in your income. This could be canceling subscriptions that you no longer use for magazines or apps. These payments are automatically charged to your debit or credit card and can add up quickly. Additionally, with over the top (OTT) platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, the trend has shifted to online entertainment, making cable TV obsolete. So take a good look at your cable channel list and try to cut channels that you no longer watch or need. While these costs may not seem as much, they can amount to a lot of savings over time.

Alternatively, look for ways to increase your income stream. You can get a freelance job or have a side hustle like babysitting or dog-walking.

Also read:

5. Celebrate your accomplishments

While the goal of an emergency fund is to save money for a rainy day, it is also important to reward yourself once in a while. This doesn’t have to be a big splurge, it could even be a meal at your favorite restaurant or a new book. Rewarding yourself will motivate you to keep going and achieve all your saving goals!

An emergency fund can help you when you have a financial setback and is an essential tool for financial success. In addition to saving money, you will have the added advantage of earning a high-interest rate on the money. Once you’ve built up a system of saving money every month, you are well on your way to building that emergency fund but most importantly make sure to use your money wisely!

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The Dogs of the Dow Strategy For Picking Stocks

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) or the Dow is an index of 30 companies that many investors are confident about investing in. It shows the market valuation of companies such as General Electric, Exxon Mobil and Microsoft Corporation and is a good reflection of how the markets are performing. A common strategy used by traders when investing in the Dow is the ‘Dogs of the Dow’ strategy.

This strategy involves a trader buying the top 10 stocks with the highest yield from a bucket of 30 stocks in the Dow. The idea behind this strategy is that blue-chip stocks with a high dividend yield is a sign that these companies are currently facing a downturn in their business cycle and in the upcoming year these values are sure to increase as the company goes through its cycle.

What is the DJIA?

The DJIA or the Dow is one of the most famous and trusted indices in the world. Founded by Charles Dow during the 19th century, the DJIA assesses the value of a basket of 30 blue chip companies based in the United States. Blue-chip stocks are shares of large, well-recognized companies that have a high valuation and a long history of trading on the stock market.

Here are the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average as of today.

Company Price (USD)
MMM 3M 207.39
AXP American Express 107.74
AAPL Apple 173.15
BA Boeing 439.96
CAT Caterpillar 137.34
CVX Chevron 119.58
CSCO Cisco 51.77
KO Coca-Cola 45.34
DIS Disney 112.84
DWDP DowDuPont Inc 53.23
XOM Exxon Mobil 79.03
GS Goldman Sachs 196.7
HD Home Depot 185.14
IBM IBM 138.13
INTC Intel 52.96
JNJ Johnson & Johnson 136.64
JPM JPMorgan Chase 104.36
MCD McDonald’s 183.84
MRK Merck 81.29
MSFT Microsoft 112.03
NKE Nike 85.51
PFE Pfizer 43.35
PG Procter & Gamble 98.55
TRV Travelers Companies Inc 132.91
UTX United Technologies 125.67
UNH UnitedHealth 242.22
VZ Verizon 56.92
V Visa 148.12
WMT Wal-Mart 98.99
WBA Walgreen 71.19

Usually, when people say ‘the market is doing well’, they are most likely referring to the DJIA. The index also provides valuations for certain industries such as the Dow Jones Utility Average and the Dow Jones Transportation Average. Other famous indices like the DJIA include the S&P500 index which is an index that values 500 companies.

Also read: What are FANG stocks? And why are they so popular?

How is the DJIA calculated?

The DJIA calculates the value of 30 blue chip companies whose valuations have a large influence on the economy and are a good reflection of the current market conditions. The companies that are to be included in the DJIA are selected by editors of The Wall Street Journal.

When valuing the companies, the Dow only considers the average price of the stock and not the company’s market capitalization. Hence if both company A and B have a stock price of $40 but their market capitalizations are $30 million and $90 million respectively, as per the index calculation both companies will have the same impact on the market and the movement of the DJIA.

But the DJIA index differentiates between stock splits, spin-offs etc using a divisor. Before the divisor, the total value of the stock prices was divided by the total number of stocks. However, if there was a stock split in one of the shares, dividing it by the total number of shares will not provide an accurate value of the DJIA.

With the divisor, the value of the stock will be calculated as follows:

Say a stock has a share price of $50 that is split into two and the total sum of all the 30 stocks in the bucket is $1096. The first step will be to subtract the split stock from the total: 1096-25= $1,071.

To find the new divisor after the stock split you need the new sum by the index value before the split. Therefore: [1071/(1096/30)]= $29.32 (new divisor)

The new DJIA= 1071/29.32= $36.53

Why is the Dogs of the Dow strategy great for investors?

Using the calculation shown above the DJIA provides the valuation of 30 large companies that have a high market valuation and provide an accurate reflection of the market conditions. The Dogs of Dow strategy, introduced by Michael B. O’Higgins in his book Beating the Dow, picks the top 10 companies out of the 30 included in the index based on their dividend yield. The Dogs of the Dow are a list of the current 10 companies ranked by their yield in the prior year from highest to lowest. The dividend yield is the ratio of the total dividends paid out to shareholders to the market value of its shares. Therefore companies with a high dividend yield pay out a large amount of their revenue in the form of dividends.

The Dogs of Dow is an optimal strategy for many investors as it ensures that they receive a high return on their investments. Many investors usually pick stocks based on the number of dividends they receive and buying the stocks with the highest dividend yield (10 Dogs of the Dow) will ensure that the investor earns a good return.

Furthermore, as the dividend yield of a company increases, it signifies that a company is facing a downturn in their business cycle and as all cycles have their ups and downs, buying a Dogs of the Dow stock with a high dividend yield is a sign that the company will have an upward movement in the upcoming year. Stocks that are currently going through a slump tend to have a low share price that is attractive to many investors.

What companies are the Dogs of the Dow in 2019?

Historically, the Dogs of the Dow stocks have shown positive returns for investors. In 2015 and 2016 they had price gains that beat out the Dow but faced a low point in 2017 as they only had returns of 19% in comparison to the Dow’s 25%. In 2018 however, the current Dogs of the Dow faced losses of 4% that were still significantly lower than the losses faced by the Dow at 6%. While this strategy does not always promise returns, it is appealing to many investors as the high yielding stocks usually have a lower price and is a safer option to buying all 30 stocks in the Dow.

Here are the top 3 Dogs for 2019:

— Exxon Mobil: The price of oil per barrel has increased steadily during 2018 from $60 per barrel to $70 per barrel but ended the year at only $45 a barrel. This is a sign that Exxon Mobil may have an upward turn in its stock prices in 2019. Two factors that can lead to better market conditions for Exxon are the ongoing talks between the US and China along with a cut in oil production by OPEC nations. The second factor is Exxon’s aggressive growth plan that hopes to double their returns in the upstream and downstream business.

— Pfizer: Pfizer’s popular pharmaceutical drug Lyrica had a dip in sales in 2018 and lost a lot of market share in the U.S and Europe. However, with a change in management this year, Pfizer is more optimistic about 2019. Moreover, the company has more than 30 drugs in the pipeline that it hopes to receive approval for by 2022.

— Cisco Systems Although there has been an increase in Cisco’s dividend in the last few years, many investors are choosing to invest in younger tech companies, leaving older companies like Cisco behind. However, Cisco plans to rectify this issue in 2019 as they are turning all their subsidiary services into subscription models which they hope will help them leverage their position in global markets and increase revenue. They also have a 3% yield which is a high value in comparison to other DJIA companies.

Also read: Here Are the 2019 Dogs of the Dow

Closing Thoughts

The Dogs of the Dow strategy is great for investors to diversify their portfolio and receive above-average returns. While the current Dogs of the Dow stocks may not seem to be doing well in the market currently, they are sure to increase in value by the end of the year.

What is Sharpe Ratio? And how to calculate risk adjusted return using it cover

What is Sharpe Ratio? And how to calculate risk adjusted return using it?

The Sharpe ratio is an important metric used to determine the overall return an investor receives on his portfolio and measures the total amount of revenue earned for each unit of risk. The ratio shows the investor how their investment or fund is performing after being adjusted for risk and can help an investor understand how much their risk is worth. It is commonly used to compare the risks of two different investments against a benchmark number. The higher the Sharpe ratio, the better the risk-adjusted return on the investment.

The Sharpe ratio is often favored over a total returns ratio because it takes into account the investors risk when calculating the return. The return ratio, on the other hand, only lets the investor know the total amount of money they will earn on the investment. In certain cases, an investment that generates a high return can have high volatility and many investors find that the returns are not worth the risk. The Sharpe ratio is used to assess risky investments like equity funds where the extra return is seen as an excess risk.

Who invented the Sharpe Ratio?

The Sharpe Ratio was invented by William F. Sharpe, a Noble American Prize winner, in 1966. The Sharpe ratio is widely used today to calculate the risk-adjusted return on investments. In addition to inventing the ratio, Sharpe was also noted for his contributions in developing CAPM which assess’ the systematic risk relative to the return on a stock.

Although the ratio was named after him, Sharpe said that this was unintended. When he first developed the ratio it was called the Reward to Variability ratio but as it became increasingly popular among investors, it soon became synonymous with Sharpe’s name.

How is the Sharpe ratio calculated?

The Sharpe ratio is used to measure the risk-free return on your portfolio and helps an investor place a value on the level of risk undertaken. It can be calculated using the formula:

Sharpe Ratio = (Expected return – Risk-free return) / Standard deviation

The components of the formula: 

  • Expected Return: This could be the expected return on the investment in days, months or years. To arrive at a standard value, the total return is annualized for uniformity. When there are extreme highs and lows, the data can often be skewed.
  • Risk-free Return: The rate of return is considered to ensure the investor is receiving a good return for the risk taken. This is often a benchmark that the level of risk is compared against. For example, government securities are known to have the lowest level of risk and the Sharpe ratio assumes that a similar security purchased for the same duration should carry identical risk.
  • Standard Deviation: this value indicates by how much individual elements in a group are away from the mean and is calculated as the square root of the variance. After subtracting the expected return from the risk-free return, it is divided by the standard deviation to show how far the asset is from the mean risk. The higher the Sharpe ratio, the greater the risk-adjusted return.

Numerical Example

Let’s say that an investor has a portfolio which consists of stocks and bonds. The current expected return on his portfolio is 13% with the market volatility of 4%. The risk-free rate for the securities is valued at 6%.

Now, he is planning to add another asset in his portfolio which may reduce the expected rate of return to 11%. However, the portfolio volatility will also reduce to 2.5% after adding the asset. What should he do? Is it wise to add this asset to his portfolio? Let’s find out the answer using the Sharpe Ratio.

Initially, the Sharpe ratio for his portfolio was:

= (0.13 – 0.06)/0.4 = 17.5%

Nonetheless, after adding the new asset, the expected rate of return and the portfolio volatility will reduce. Further, let’s assume the risk-free rate of return to be constant at 6%. The updated Sharpe ratio for his portfolio will become:

= (0.11- 0.06)/0.25 = 20%

Here you can notice that although the absolute return after adding the new asset is lower. However, there is an improved performance for his portfolio on the risk-adjusted basis which is reflected in the increased Sharpe ratio. Therefore, he should add this new asset to his portfolio.

What is the Sharpe Ratio used for?

The Sharpe ratio measures the total value of an investment, taking into account all the inherent risks involved in a certain asset. Investors use the Sharpe ratio in the following ways:

— To compare two investments- The ratio can be used to compare the risk-adjusted return for two investments and allows you to quantify the excess returns over the risk-free rate. This is useful information to an investor as an investment that has a high return may not always be worth a large amount of risk. It also standardizes different types of investments that allows for easy comparison.

— It helps you decide what to invest in next- The Sharpe ratio calculation can help you pick your next investment. If your existing ratio a lower Sharpe ratio, then ideally you should choose an investment that will increase your Sharpe ratio which would lower risk and increase return. Any investment that decreases the Sharpe ratio is a sign that the investment may not be the best addition to your portfolio.

— High return does not equal a good investment- the Sharpe ratio is a good measure for the risk to return value of an investment. An investment with a return of 9% and low volatility is better than an investment return of 11% with high volatility. The Sharpe ratio takes this volatility into consideration and provides a true return on investment.

Also read:

Warning: Sharpe ratio is not always a good indicator

The Sharpe ratio is used as a comparison between two investments and sometimes there is no indication as to whether all the stocks in the portfolio are concentrated in one sector. If this is the case, an industry that is doing well will result in a high Sharpe ratio but will also be a very risky investment for the trader.

Alternatively, finding the right valued for risk-free-return and the standard deviation is often a challenge for many investors. During unstable economic conditions, historical data may not provide a true reflection of the current market environment. In today’s everchanging market, history rarely repeats itself.

Hence, when using the Sharpe ratio to assess an investment, its value should be considered in addition to other qualitative factors and ratios to help you make informed decisions.

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What is Goodwill in the Balance Sheet?

Goodwill is an intangible asset that represents the non-physical items of a company has that cannot be easily valued. It is the excess value of a business after subtracting the assets from the liabilities. This value can be generated from customer loyalty, the quality of the management, the brand image or even the location of the company. Anything that adds value to a company beyond its assets and liabilities is considered goodwill.

Why is goodwill important to a company?

The importance of goodwill comes into play during a merger or acquisition. A buyer who is looking to acquire the company can pay more than the market value due to the business’ intangible assets. When acquiring another business, companies often look beyond the physical assets that the company owns and consider the brand identity, customer satisfaction and efficiency of the staff to arrive at a fair price for the company. The total amount of money that the buyer pays for these intangible assets in excess of the company’s market value is considered goodwill.

Goodwill is subjective and can be a different value for each company. When Facebook acquired Instagram, many people believed that Instagram (a free app that allows you to share images at no cost) was not worth more than $500 million. But after valuing Instagram’s total assets, liabilities and goodwill, Facebook believed that Instagram was worth over $1 billion which is what they paid for it. It is often hard to put a specific value on a company.

What creates goodwill in a business?

There are three factors that makeup goodwill in a business. They include:

1. Going-concern

This includes the existing assets in the business such as the employees and equipment that can be used in the day to day operations of the business. When these assets are functional, they create intangible value for the business known as going-concern. The going concern of a company can be used in one of two ways.

It can either be shown as an individual intangible asset for specific valuation or tax reasons or as a component of the total goodwill in the company. This second method is in accordance with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) for deriving the fair value of a company.

Going-concern can increase the value of specific assets in the business. For example, the value of a machine will be greater when it is seen as being fully functional and adding value to the business every day versus being valued as a single entity in the company. Going concern can also add value to an intangible asset such as a trademark or copyright. These assets are usually worth more when there are seen as providing continuous value to the company.

2. Excess business income

When a company earns a rate of return that is greater than the fair value of the tangible and intangible assets combined, the excess income is considered goodwill for the company. This excess income cannot be assigned to any specific tangible or intangible asset and is hence included in the goodwill of the company. For example, any income earned by an actor or singer that is in excess of their direct return from their acting or singing abilities is considered goodwill.

3. The expectation of future events

Goodwill can also be created through any future events that are not directly related to the current operations of the business. This can include a merger or acquisition, expansion of the business or new clients. When valuing a company, financial advisors will use the current operations of the business (NPV) in relation to the future events assuming that it will have a positive impact on the company.

The different types of goodwill

There are three different types of goodwill:

— Institutional goodwill

This is the company’s reputation of the company in the market and their ability to serve customers. That is the goodwill created from the collective operations of the business through its assets.

— Professional goodwill

This is the goodwill in professions such as a doctor, lawyer or athlete. It consists of two types:

  • Practitioner goodwill- this is the goodwill created by the skills, talent, and reputation of the professional.
  • Practice goodwill- this is the goodwill created by the business the professional works and includes the location of the business, its reputation in the market and the efficiency of the operations.

— Goodwill as a result of fame

Famous people can also create goodwill through various factors. For an actor, their goodwill is attributable to their skill level while athletes create goodwill through their professional accomplishments and accolades. Top business executives and politicians create goodwill through their skill level and any professional accomplishments.

Also read:

Example

Company X purchased Company Y for $115,000. Business Y has assets worth $100,000 and liabilities worth $20,000. The value of goodwill is:

Goodwill = 115,000 – (100,000 – 20,000) = $35,000

The journal entry for Company X is:

Account Debit Credit
Total assets 100,000
Goodwill 35,000
Liabilities 20,000
Cash 115,000

Goodwill is shown separately in the assets of the buying company’s balance sheet but the treatment of goodwill can vary by the accounting standard followed by the company. Under the IFRS and US GAAP standards, goodwill should not be amortized on the balance sheet every year rather the goodwill should be monitored and only reported on the balance sheet when necessary i.e. during a merger or acquisition.

Under the UK GAAP, goodwill is seen as providing continuous value to the business and should be amortized every year. The intangible assets are included in the financial statements of the buyer at their fair value (the price at which the intangible assets could have been disposed of individually).

Sometimes, the goodwill of a company can be negative (the company is sold at a price lower than its market value). In this case, goodwill is shown as an income on the buyer’s balance sheet.

Quick Note: If you are new to the financial world and want to learn how to effectively read the financial statements of companiesfeel free to check out this awesome online course- Introduction to Financial Statements & Ratio Analysis

Conclusion:

Goodwill refers to the reputation of a business and is vital to any company in acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. It also attracts new investors and keeps shareholders happy. Moreover, Goodwill represents the true value of a company, that is, its total worth over and above its market value. The goodwill of a company is often valued by financial advisors for the purpose of taxation, litigation or maintaining financial statements.

Cyclical and Non-cyclical stocks: How do they differ?

The best offense is a good defense. Just like in military combat or football, investors also need a good offense and defense strategy. In other words, you need to use more than one strategy in order to succeed. As a serious investor, there are many different ways you can do this. You can invest in a variety of stocks, cash, and other securities, you can also diversify your portfolio by investing in securities across various sectors and markets or you can invest in stocks that are at different growth and value levels.

Implementing the right strategy requires a good knowledge of the global economy and how the markets work- if you don’t have a good understanding of this, making decisions become incredibly difficult. As we all know, the economy goes through different business cycles and while we can’t predict the outcome of the cycles we can alter our decisions to keep up with the ever-changing landscape. This changing environment also provides a great way for investors to mix up their portfolio, namely with investing in cyclical and non-cyclical industries.

What are cyclical stocks?

As the name suggests, cyclical stocks are those that move in the direction of the market. That is when the economy is doing well, the stocks go up and when there is a downturn in the economy, the value of the stock goes down too. These stocks are more closely aligned with the broader economy and are more prone to economic activity.

For many investors, the movement of stock in cyclical industries provides a great opportunity to earn revenue on the stock by buying when there is a downturn and selling when there is an upward trend. For a novice investor, this may seem like a fool-proof strategy but be cautious, as it is almost impossible to tell when there will be a downturn in the market.

Cyclical industries usually may include durable goods (that last for a long time into the future), non-durable goods (that have a short shelf life) and services like automobile, construction, and travel.

When the economy is doing good and the people are earning well, they may spend a lot of money on buying a new car, constructing their new house or even plan fancy off-shore travels. However, when there is a downturn in the economy, people may prefer to hold these expenses for another year or two.

Around 75 percent of the stocks listed in the stock exchange are cyclical and follow the market trends. A few examples include Ferrari NV (RACE), Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL).

What are non-cyclical stocks?

While cyclical industries may seem like a good investment, every good offense needs a defense, hence, it is important to balance out your portfolio with non-cyclical or defensive stocks. During a boom, people splurge on goods and services such as travel and cars. But during a slump, people stop spending on purchases that they don’t consider a basic necessity, instead they focus their spending money on food, water, and shelter.

non cyclical industry

During an economic recession or depression, the revenue and cash-flows and share price of non-cyclical companies continue to do well because they are industries that produce the basic needs of life that people will continue to consume.

In addition to basic needs, non-cyclical stocks also include those goods that are addictive such as tobacco or alcohol which can put ethical investors in a tricky situation as these industries do well even during a slump and reduces the number of industries that they can invest in.

Defensive stocks include goods and services in industries that are not affected by market fluctuations such as utilities, food, and medicines. It is basically any good or service that people will buy whether or not the economy is doing well. A few examples of defensive stock companies include Kraft Heinz Company (KHC), Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) and Sysco Corporation (SYY).

Bonus: The top-down strategy

There are two main investing strategies in the market, the top-down approach, and the bottom-up approach. The top-down approach involves looking at the economy as a whole and picking stocks that do well during certain economic conditions. This strategy requires the investor to have a good understanding of the macroeconomy along with its various sectors and industries to know what industry will perform well during the different business cycles. They also need to assess the inflexion points in the economy, that is when a certain stock price is expected to go up or down. For cyclical and non-cyclical stocks, top-down is the most commonly used strategy.

The bottom-up approach, on the other hand, involves looking at the stock individually and making investment decisions based on independent parameters.

When using the top-down approach, there are many indicators that investors can use to study the market. The first and most obvious metric is the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). This is the total value of all the goods and services produced in the economy and gives us a good understanding of the overall economic health.

Another great indicator is the ‘Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI). This is a survey conducted among the purchasing managers in different sectors and industries in the economy. The PMI provides the investor with information on how the businesses are currently performing and which direction the economy is headed.

A third metric is the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This will give an investor insight into the changing price levels of goods and services in the economy and is a reflection of the state of the economy.

The top-down strategy is considered successful when the cyclical and defensive stocks are in perfect correlation with each other. A 100% correlation would mean that the stocks move in synch with each other while a -100% correlation means that the stocks are still in sync but move in the opposite direction.

During the 2008 recession, luxury goods such as Ford cars faced a huge decline in the value of their stock as people stopped spending on expensive items when the economy was down but at the same time, the stock for beverages such as Coco-Cola continued to do well as people spent money on this regardless of the business cycle.

Also read:

Conclusion

It is important for every investor to have a balanced and diversified portfolio with both cyclical and non-cyclical stocks.

Cyclical stocks include more luxury goods and hence a provide a higher return than non-cyclical stocks. However, the investor needs to study the market carefully and have a good tolerance for risk. Defensive stocks are safer investments but provide lower returns but are better for investors looking for safe investments Remember low risk, low return.

mental models cover

What are Mental Models? And Why Should You Care?

“Like a pane of glass framing and subtly, distorting our vision, mental models determine what we see”- Peter Senge.

Have you ever stopped to question your perception of the world around you? Have you asked yourself: ‘Is the way you view something really how it is in the real world?’ More often than not the answer is NO because our current perception of the world serves us quite well. In fact, we barely question it at all because that’s how limited our view of the world really is.

But have you stopped to think, that in a world so large and complex, there’s more to life than what we see and recognize? For instance, there are so many ways we can look at a problem and at the same time, there’s always more than one solution to the same problem. As humans, it can be a challenge to analyze and understand the vast amounts of information present in this world which is why we need mental models.

What are Mental models?

In its most basic form, a mental model is an image or model a person has of the world around them, that is, how they perceive their surroundings. This view varies by each being and it helps shape their behavior and how they react to the different situations they are presented with. However, many people only have one mental model and try to use it to solve a variety of problems.

In 1994, during a speech to business school students, Charlie Munger summarized this with a quote ‘To the man with one hammer, every problem looks like a nail.’ Possessing just one mental model is equal to having a very narrow perception of the world, which, essentially, is not a great way to operate in the ever-changing world we live in today.

There are numerous mental models that vary by discipline and developing multiple models can help you think more rationally. Here are three mental models used in business, psychology, and economics to help you get started:

Confirmation Bias (Psychology)

Confirmation bias is the tendency of humans to favor the information that aligns with their values and beliefs and ignore everything else that doesn’t fit into our perceptions. A great example would be the Buzzfeed personality quizzes like ‘What Harry Potter character are you?’ Before you even take the quiz, your confirmation bias or the way you perceive yourself has already decided that its Hermione Granger of course!

You have already confirmed the answer to the quiz based on the traits of the character and how they match up to your own personality. This confirmation bias can be applied to our everyday lives as well. Very often we find ourselves making purchases based on confirmation bias and later finding a rational reason to justify the purchase.

A simple way to overcome confirmation bias is to analyze your reasons for buying something, be it a stock or a car- you need to look at both sides of the coin. Make a list of the pros and cons along with the reasons why you want to make the purchase and why you might want to sell it in the future.

Also read: 5 Common Behavioral Biases That Every Investor Should Know.

Moral Hazard (Economics)

A moral hazard is when one party or entity makes a decision on how much risk to take while another party suffers the consequences if things go south. Moral hazard can be dangerous as it can cause the party that does not bear any costs to practice reckless and impetuous behavior.

While in theory, moral hazard can seem unlikely, as society has come to believe that the person making the decision has to bear its associated costs as well, this concept is very much prevalent in the insurance and medical industries. For example, a person taking out a policy on fire insurance has no motivation to protect their home from the risk of fire as they know that any damage caused by fire will be the responsibility of the insurance company. Likewise, in the medical industry, doctors are more likely to prescribe expensive treatment or surgery to their patients if they are covered by medical insurance.

Another great example of moral hazard is during the 2008 financial crisis, where banks and other financial institutions were close to bankruptcy due to their recklessness and poor decision-making. In the end, it was the government that had to intervene and prevent these companies from going under using tax-payers money to bail them out. The consequences of the poor deal-making on the side of the banks was borne by the government.

Network Effect (Business)

A network effect is when the utility you receive from using a product increases as more people use the same product and service and is a common mental model used in business.

A great example is the different types of social media we use today. When Twitter was first introduced, not many people knew exactly what it was and hence not many accounts existed. At this time your motivation to create a Twitter account is not too high as there aren’t many people you can interact with on the platform. But as Twitter gained popularity and more people started using it, you were more inclined to join as the utility you receive from it is now much greater than it was before. The network effect has made Twitter a major source of news today.

The network effect is prevalent in e-commerce sites as well. With websites like Amazon, the value of the platform increases as more people purchase goods and services and leave positive reviews. This encourages more people to use the platform, thus increasing revenue for the company. The network effect is a mental model used in many businesses and is a great way for companies to gain a competitive advantage in the market they operate in.

Resources to read:

Conclusion

The mental models listed above are just three in a long list of models that exist. Mental models can vary by discipline and it can often be a challenge for humans to learn and understand all the models that exist.

However, it is important to master the primary models to gain the wisdom of the world. Charlie Munger refers to these as the ‘Big Ideas.’ Mental models can help you think ‘outside the box’ and widen your perspectives on the world. You can use them to make wise and intelligent decisions!

How to learn faster- The Feynman Technique cover

How to learn faster- The Feynman Technique!

As the world around us evolves, we seek to constantly learn and absorb new information every day. Learning new skills and concepts is exciting and can expand your views on the world as you know it, making you a better student and human being. As Benjamin Franklin said ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’.

But there is no denying that learning all this new information can sometimes get tedious and monotonous, there’s only so much knowledge that your mind can take in at any given time. However, thanks to scientific research, there is a method you can use to make the process of studying easier and efficient while increasing your ability to learn- the Feynman Technique. But before we discuss this technique, let me first introduce Richard Feynman to you.

Who was Richard Feynman?

richard feynman

Theoretical physicist and Noble laureate Richard Feynman was born in 1918 in Queens, New York. From a very young age, Feynman quickly took to science and engineering and had a laboratory in his parent’s home where he built various electronic devices.

By a young age, he was self-taught in various subjects such as algebra, trigonometry, and integrals. Eventually, Feynman went on to study at MIT and later Princeton for his Ph.d, where he made numerous contributions in the field of Physics. Some of his accomplishments include:

  • He contributed research papers on the theory of light and matter which earned him a joint Noble Prize in 1965.
  • When the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred, Feynman helped research scientists understand the cause for the crash and the risks involved in flying the shuttle
  • He made a major contribution to quantum physics through the Feynman Diagram. The diagram aimed to visualize the interactions between elementary particles such as electrons and photons.

In addition to the major contributions to Physics, Feynman had the ability to apply his learnings to other fields such as mathematics and biology. He has the ability to comprehend and explain information on a variety of subjects that earned him the title ‘The Great Explainer.’ His vast knowledge led him to give numerous guest lectures at universities such as Cal Tech and UCLA. Many people, including Bill Gates, enjoyed his lectures due to his ability to break down and simplify complex scientific principles.

The Feynman Technique

Say you want to have a good understanding of a really hard concept in a discipline of your choice. There’s a chance that you may find the theory hard to comprehend as the crux of the matter is lost in translation aka with all the business jargon. The ability to understand and communicate these complex ideas in a simple way is what the Feynman technique addresses.

This method was developed by Richard Feynman when he was a student at Princeton. He kept a notebook of concepts and theories that he did not understand and spent time breaking down each process and understanding its parts individually, while looking for contradictory details in the theory. The technique essentially comprises of four parts as follows:

1. Pick the concept or theory you wish to learn

The first step in the Feynman technique is to identify what concept or theory you want to learn and list out everything that you know about the topic in a notebook. This could be any concept, under any discipline.

For instance, if you want to learn more about the game theory, your first step would be to write down all the existing (even limited) information that you have on the topic. Any new information about the theory from various other sources can be added to the notebook. For the game theory, you can start by writing down the definition of the concept and any information about the theory that you may have come across (for example prisoner’s dilemma…).

2. Teach or explain the concept in your own words to someone else

As you approach the second step in the Feynman technique, you would have gathered plenty of information on the subject (in this case game theory). Read through the information you have written down and try to understand the concept as best you can because this step involves teaching it to someone else.

But before you explain the concept, analyze the information in parts, this can also mean re-writing some of the information in your own words to have a better understanding. When explaining the concept, think of it as explaining to a child who has no background in what the concept is about. Hence, you need to use simple words (no jargon) and keep the information concise and to the point- children have a low attention span.

3. Identify any areas in your explanation that you can improve on

Now that you’ve explained the concept to someone else, it is likely that you will find a few areas in the theory that you can learn and improve on. So it’s back to the books to do additional research on certain concepts and breaking the data down further until you understand them completely. The goal is to make the information as simple as possible because that’s what the Feynman technique is all about.

4. Restructure the information and use examples as needed

The information you collected from various sources in the first step of the Feynman technique is essentially a puzzle that you need to solve.

Once you have identified the gaps in your information in step 3, your next move is to fill in these gaps to complete the puzzle. Think of your concept as a story and pretend that you are narrating it to a friend or co-worker.

When you say the information out loud, it can help identify the missing pieces and form new thought processes. Alternatively, you can use examples to simplify your learnings and add an element of creativity.

the feynman technique safal niveshak

(Image credits: Safal Niveshak)

Also read:

Conclusion

The Feynman technique aims to simplify complex learnings by breaking them down into smaller parts.

The technique can help you understand pretty much any concept or theory known to man and it helped Feynman amass large amounts of knowledge at a very young age. The trick is to break down any concept into a form so simple, that even a child would be able to comprehend the information. Albert Einstein famously said ‘if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’

Why buying a house can be good investment cover

Why buying a house can be good investment?

As millennials we are often given a lot of investment advice- save early, take advantage of mutual funds and employer savings accounts and get rid of high-interest credit cards. But research has shown that one of the best ways to build up that retirement nest-egg is by investing in a house. According to leading financial advisors, purchasing a home is a great investment because the property is ideally protected from inflation and it is a physical asset that theoretically does not crash or disappear as stocks do.

 Why should you invest in a home?

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” – Mark Twain

Any investment you make comes with its own set of risks so it is important to do thorough research into the advantages and drawbacks before you dive into a single investment. In many countries, especially India, buying your dream home is seen as an important investment as it is the place you create your happiest memories with family and friends.

In other countries such as the US, there has been a dip in home purchasing in recent years due to the volatility of markets and an increase in the cost of living but it is worth noting that the millennial generation represents the largest percentage of first-time homebuyers.

Purchasing a home is a life goal for many and the number of people investing in real estate is slowly picking up as more people recognize its many benefits. Here a few reasons why buying a home is a great investment:

Buying a home is a safer investment

When compared to all other forms of investments such as stock and gold, buying a home is a safe and stable investment. Unlike the stock market, the housing market does not face high volatility. But although it is a safe investment, you still need to be diligent and weigh the pros and cons before you invest in a home.

You can become smarter about your expenses

When you decide to rent a home, all your rent payments go straight into the landlord’s pocket while eating into a large proportion of your income. But mortgage payments or loan payments towards your home are an investment for the future. The monthly payments you make will reduce the amount you owe on the house while your home equity increases. It is a much better solution to make payments towards a home in place of short-term rent expenses that will not provide any value in the future.

It is a great way to save your money

Buying a home these days has become an accessible goal for many young people as salaries have increased and the ability to procure a loan is much simpler. In order to ensure that you are not spending your hard-earned money on unnecessary things, a great option is to invest in a home. Not only does investing in a home lock up all your savings in one asset but it also generates a lot of revenue if you have invested in property in the right location. In India, the Central Government has a PMAY scheme which provides first-time homebuyers with a subsidy of 2.67 lakhs.

The emotional aspect of homebuying

Homeowners are more motivated to form relationships with the people in their community than those who rent. The people in the area you live in can create a dependable support system. Although this may not be a tangible benefit, buying a home brings a sense of pride and accomplishment for homebuyers. Many people view homebuying as accomplishing a milestone in their lives. Moreover, this home can be passed on from generation to generation as a family inheritance.

Buying a home can help augment your retirement income

Due to the high costs of healthcare, funding your retirement is not as simple as it once was. If you choose to buy a home earlier in your life, there is a good chance that your home will be paid off by retirement age. The equity of your home can help supplement your retirement income. It provides a safety net against the rising costs and will give you the added benefit of not having to pay rent every month.

While many people think that investing in stocks is a better way to save for retirement, it is important to remember that any return on stock comes with an added risk. There is a further risk that your stock may lose its value when you reach the retirement age, or worse, it could be wiped out completely. Investing in a home is a safer alternative for funding your retirement as the value of the investment is more stable.

It provides a safety-net

There can be many unexpected twists and turns in your life both professionally and personally. An investment in a home provides a safety net in those instances as you have something to fall back on. In a situation where you lose a source on income or there has been a surge in rent prices or an emergency that requires a lot of money, your property, which is essentially your savings locked up in a single place, can serve as a source of income.

The stability of home-ownership

Owning a home provides a sense of belonging and kinship. Moving houses frequently is often tedious and emotionally taxing, especially for children. As you become older, moving houses becomes more difficult as you begin to form a close relationship with the people in the area you live in. Owning a home is therefore important as it provides a sense of community and helps avoid the emotional discomfort of moving.

Also read: Planning to Invest in Commercial Real Estate? Read This First!

Conclusion

There a many benefits to owning a home and it is one of the best investments millennials can make. However, it is important to study the housing market in the area you decide to invest in and weigh the pros and cons before you make a decision. It is recommended to talk to real estate brokers who can give you more details on the real-estate marker along with a loan officer who can provide information from a financial perspective. Do your homework and play it safe before buying a home.

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What is the Prisoner’s Dilemma?

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a popular two-person game of strategic thinking that is analyzed as part of game theory. It demonstrates how rational individuals are unlikely to co-operate even when it is in their best interests to do so.

The game uses the example of two prisoners being interrogated and how they respond and change their strategy over time depending on the situation.

However, before we discuss the prisoner’s dilemma, let’s first understand what is game theory.

What is Game Theory?

Game theory is the use of mathematical models to identify the reasons for conflict and cooperation between individuals. It helps us understand why an individual makes a certain decision and how their decision affects others.

The application of this theory in non-gaming scenarios is called gamification. The three main branches discussed below are closely related to game theory:

— Decision theory: This can be described as a game of an individual against nature. People’s decisions are based on their personal preferences and beliefs. The decision among risky alternatives is described by the maximization of the utility function. In turn, the utility function is dependent on various factor but mostly the level of money income.

— General equilibrium theory: This is a branch of game theory that deals with a large group of individuals such as consumers and producers. It is used in macroeconomic analysis such as the tax policy, to analyze the stock market or to fix exchange rates.

— Mechanism theory- While the game theory follows the rules of the game, the mechanism theory discusses the consequences associated with each of the rules. The questions addressed include wage agreements, spreading risk while maximizing revenue.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Game theory can be described as two players playing a game and listing out the choices and alternatives available to each player.

A famous example of the game theory is the Prisoner’s Dilemma where two individuals who are partners in crime are caught by the police and interrogated in two separate rooms and are given the chance to confess.

Since each prisoner has two possible options (either to confess or don’t confess i.e. remain silent), there are four outcomes to the game as represented in the matrix below:

the prisoner's dilemma 1-min Rules of the game:

  • If both players confess to the crime, they both get sent to jail but they will get a shorter sentence if one of the players is ratted out by his partner in crime.
  • If one player confesses while the other one remains silent, the one who remains silent gets a long severe prison sentence while the one who confesses goes free.
  • However, if both players don’t confess, they both get a shorter prison sentence than if they were to both confess.

 The options in the game (both risks and rewards) are represented as utility numbers.

In the table above, the positive numbers are favorable outcomes while the negative numbers are negative outcomes. However, one outcome is better than the other if the total value is greater. So -5 is better than -10.

In the table above, there are four outcomes, if both players confess, they are blamed equally for the crime (-5,-5). But if one player provides information on the other player in exchange for going free, the individual receives a utility of 3 units. But the other prisoner who does not confess and is sent to prison has a low utility of -10.

The last option is both prisoners don’t confess and sent to prison on reduced terms which results in a very low utility of -1.

Analyzing the Prisoner’s Dilemma

Once the various outcomes in the game are described, the next step is to analyze how the players are likely to respond. Economists make two assumptions when it comes to analyzing this game.

The first is that both players are aware of the total payoffs for themselves and the other player. The second assumption is that both players are looking to satisfy their personal gain from the game.

To analyze the outcome of the game, we can look at the most dominant strategies- this is the most optimal solution for one player, despite the response of the other player. Using the table above, confessing to the crime would be the dominant strategy for both players.

  • It is better for player 1 to confess if player 2 confesses as well because a utility of -5 is better than -10.
  • Player 1 should confess even if player 2 remains silent as 3 is better than -1.
  • Similarly, it would be better for player 2 to confess if player 1 confesses as -5 is more optimal than -10.
  • Player 2 should confess if player 1 remains silent as a utility of 3 is better than -1.

For player 1 and 2, confessing to the crime would be the equilibrium solution to the game.

the prisoner's dilemma 2-min

The Nash Equilibrium

The Nash Equilibrium was developed by mathematician John Nash and it shows the best response strategies in any situation. It is an outcome where one player’s strategy is the best response to the other player’s strategy and vice versa.

As per the outcomes in the table above, if player 1 confesses, it is in player 2’s best interest to confess as well as -5 is better than -10. And if player 1 doesn’t confess, player 2 should still confess as a utility of 3 is better than -1 and vice versa. The best strategies are highlighted in green in the table above.

Note: In case you enjoy visuals, here’s a simplified video on Prisoner’s dilemma:

Also read:

Why has this game become so popular among economists?

There are many reasons why the Prisoner’s Dilemma has become an important tool for economists in developing numerous economic theories.

The strategies to ‘confess’ or ‘not confess’ is used to identify if certain economic theories ‘contribute to the common good’ or ‘behave selfishly’. This is also known as the public good problem.

For example, if the government decides to construct a road, the construction of the road is beneficial to everyone. But, it would be better for the individual if the private sector and not the government built the road. When government spending does not benefit the individuals in the economy, it is known as an externality.

For two competing firms, the outcomes can be ‘set a high price’ or ‘set a low price’. For both companies, it would be beneficial to set high prices to earn higher revenue. But for each individual company, it would be more optimal if they set a low price while their competition set a higher price.

The game also shows how a rational individual should behave. As shown by the dominant strategy, it is best for both player to confess but in terms of utility confessing only results in -5 unit of versus the -1 unit they would receive if they did not confess. The conflict between the individual and the common goal is the basis of many economic theories.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is an important tool used by economists when making decisions on economic theories and public spending. The payoff matrix can be applied to our everyday lives to find the most optimal solution in any situation.

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Planning to Invest in Commercial Real Estate? Read This First!

It goes without saying that investing in commercial real estate is a huge decision. Therefore, it is important that you are well informed before you make any money moves.

Investing in commercial real estate gives you the chance to dip into a new customer base and develop your business interests. It is quite different from investing in traditional real estate and requires some additional considerations. Patience is a virtue when it comes to commercial real estate as the cycle is longer and the investor needs to be well aware of trends in the market and economy.

Here are some key points to keep in mind when investing in commercial real estate:

Location Location Location

It’s all about the location when it comes to investing in commercial real estate. In every city, there are those areas that are in high demand (macro markets) and other micro-markets that are not so favorable.

When it comes to buying commercial property, there are many factors that come into play such as accessibility to roads and public transport, distance to neighboring cities and infrastructure projects currently in development in the area.

But as an investor, you need to be vigilant about emerging markets that are created as a result of the infrastructure developments. These are great areas to invest in because not only will they be in high demand but it also guarantees capital appreciation in the long term.

The property’s marketability

In addition to a great location, it is important for the property to create a steady cash-flow for the investor. The property needs to remain marketable and be able to withstand a large number of tenants and future growth. This means that you need to invest in property that is modern with trendy architecture.

Properties that encourage ‘green living’ and are eco-friendly will add to the attractiveness of the property. Other factors to consider are environment-friendly utilities, maintenance of the common spaces and good building management.

The amenities

The amenities available can add value to the property and these benefits tend to override the cost. Amenities can include many different things that can increase efficiency for the tenants on the property such as extra parking spaces or a food court if the commercial property is used for a campus or office space. These amenities can enhance the space while increasing the marketability of the property.

real estate amenties

While assessing the property, it is important for the investor to ask about who usually does the interior fit outs for the property. Traditionally, the tenant receives a bare space and installs the fit outs such as air-conditioning, lighting and sensors but some tenants may ask the building developers to install such fittings and pay an additional fit out rent.

Tenants who install their own equipment are likely to rent out the space for a longer period of time to cover their expenses.

The property’s risk

The assessment of risk bears a different meaning when it comes to commercial real estate as each property is different. While residential properties that are right next to each other face more or less the same risks, commercial property risks can fluctuate independently. Hence, it is important for investors to understand the potential risks of their investment.

These risks can include a variety of things such as zoning changes that can cause a commercial property to become residential as new suburbs develop in the area. Additionally, having similar commercial properties can create an oversupply in the market, that could drastically reduce demand. Infrastructure projects in other commercial areas can drive potential tenants away from your property.

The market dynamics

Investing is always a numbers game so it only makes sense that you keep up with them before investing in commercial property. It would be helpful to understand trends in the market along with customer’s changing wants and demands. You also need to study the historical market performance over the last three to five years to identify any anomalies or potential for reduced demand in the future.

Along with this, you should plan for the future and map out details about the tenant profile, the rent roll out, the lease contract (expiry date) along with any other information that will provide more clarity on the financials of the property. It would also help to talk to a real estate agent to discuss the details before making any big decisions.

The lease structure

Commercial leases are structured very differently from residential leases. They are either a 3+3+3 or a 5+5+5. This means they could either be a 9 year or a 15 year lease with increments in the rent every 3 or 5 years respectively.

The tenant has the freedom to vacate the property without notice, while the owner of the property cannot ask them to leave until the lease period is complete. They can, however, have a lock-in period in the contract of 3 years, during which the tenant cannot vacate the property. It is important for the investor to understand the lease structure of the property as they are often inherent risks involved. A lease with a long lock-in period is great for the investor.

Documentation

As an investor, it is important to perform due diligence and carefully analyse all title documents, permits and taxes associated with the commercial estate along with the presence of any mortgages. It is recommended to have all documents examined by a legal authority.

If you plant to rent out the space, it is important that the lessee understands their duties and obligations as per the contract. This will reduce the chance for any future errors. In addition to the legal documents of the property, the local area may have local laws that property owners need to abide by. You should have a thorough understanding of all the rules and regulations related to the property and the area it is located in.

Also read:

Closing Thoughts

Investing in commercial real estate can certainly add immense value to your portfolio but it is a decision that needs to be taken after a lot of thought and consideration. You need to conduct a thorough market analysis of the property while taking into consideration the factors listed above.

While the process of investing in commercial real estate is very time-consuming, it is unquestionably beneficial to an investor in the long-run.

5 Psychology Traps that Investors Need to Avoid

5 Psychology Traps that Investors Need to Avoid

Benjamin Graham once said that “an investor’s chief problem and even his worst enemy- is likely to be himself.” It is a well-known fact that the human brain is a wonder that is capable of numerous mathematical, problem-solving and communication skills that is unparalleled with any other living species.

However, when it comes to investing, humans have been known to make terrible decisions and often fail to learn from their own mistakes. They go through a ‘roller-coaster of emotions’ as shown below.

Investment process – Roller coaster of emotions

(Image Source: Credit Suisse)

While the human mind is incredibly unique, people still fall victim to the investor traps that can have serious consequences in the financial markets. This has led to the emergence of behavioural finance, a new field that aims to shed light on investors’ behaviour in financial markets.

This post discusses the most common psychological traps investors need to overcome to increase their chances of earning high returns.

5 Psychology Traps that Investors Need to Avoid:

Anchoring Bias

Anchoring Bias occurs when people rely too much on a reference point in the past when making decisions for the future- that is they are ‘anchored’ to the past. This bias can cause a lot of problems for investors and is an important concept in behavioural finance.

For example, if you had a favourable return on a stock when you first invested in it, your perception on the future returns of stock is positive even when there may be clear signs indicating that the stock might take a dive. It is important to remember that financial markets are very unpredictable so you need to remain flexible and seek professional advice when not-sure of making considerable investment decisions.

Herding

Also known as the mob mentality, is a tactic that was passed on from our ancestors and believes that there is strength in numbers. Unfortunately, this is not always the best strategy in the financial market as following the crowd is not always the right move.

Ironically, this herding mentality among investors is the major reason for ‘bubbles’ in the financial markets. Investors often ‘herd’ to secure their reputation and base their decisions on past trends or on investors who have had success with the same stock in the past. However, people are quick to dump stock when a company receives bad press or go into a buying frenzy when the stock does well.

As an investor, you should perform your own analysis and research on every investment decision and avoid the temptation to follow the majority.

Loss Aversion

Loss Aversion is when people go to great lengths to avoid losses because the pain of a loss is twice as impactful as the pleasure received from an investment gain. To put in simple terms, losing one dollar is twice as painful as earning one dollar.

Loss Aversion- How it can ruin your investments

As emotional beings, we often make decisions to avoid a loss, this could involve investors pulling their money out of the market when there is a dip which leads to a greater cash accumulation or to avoid losses after a market correction investors decide to hold their assets in the form of cash.

However, this perceived security of exiting the market when it is unstable only leads to a larger amount of cash circulated in the economy which results in the inflation. During the 2007 financial crisis, there was $943B worth of cash increases in the US economy.

Investors can avoid the loss aversion trap by speaking to a financial advisor to learn how to cut their losses and optimize their portfolio for higher returns.

Superiority trap

Confidence is an asset when it comes to investing in the stock market, but over-confidence or narcissism can lead to an investor’s downfall. Many investors, especially those who are well educated and have a good understanding of finance and in the functioning of the stock market often believe they know more than an independent financial advisor.

It is important to remember that the financial market is a complex system made of many different elements and cannot be outwitted by a single person. Many investors in the past have lost large sums of money simply because they have fallen prey to the mentality of overconfidence and refused to heed anyone’s advice. Overconfidence is the most dangerous form of carelessness.

Confirmation bias

Confirmation trap is when investors seek out information that validates their opinions and ignores any theories that refute it.

When investing in a particular stock that believe will result in favourable returns, an investor will filter out any information that goes against their belief. They will continue to seek the advice of people who gave them bad advice and make the same mistakes. This results in biased decision-making as investors tend to look at only one side of the coin.

For instance, an investor will continue to hold on to a stock that is decreasing in value simply because someone else is doing the same. The investors help validate each other’s reasons for holding on to the investment, -this, however, will not work in the long-term as both investors may end up in a loss. Investors should seek out new perspectives on a stock and conduct an unbiased analysis of their investment.

Also read:

How can an investor overcome these psychological traps?

The human mind is very complex and there are many factors both internal and external that can affect the decisions we make. The pressures we face in society make it easy to feed into temptation and fall prey to the psychological traps listed above. Being overconfident, seeking validation from others and finding comfort in other people who are in the same boat as you are just some of the reasons that can have an impact on the investment decisions we make.

Nobody is perfect and it is only human to fall into a psychological trap. The best way to mitigate these effects is to stay open to new information and think practically about how the investment will affect you as an individual. You should also seek the advice of industry experts to ensure that your investment decisions are based on well-researched information that can help you make unbiased decisions.

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Warning: Random Walk Theory may change the way you look at stocks

The Random Walk theory is a statistical model of the stock market that shows that stock prices with the same distribution can be independent of each other. In other words, the prices of these securities are not influenced by past events in the market.

The random walk theory was developed by Burton G Malkiel, a professor at Princeton University and was discussed in his book A Random Walk Down Wall Street. The theory applies to trading securities and states that movements in the price of a stock are random and that any research conducted to predict future price movements is a waste of time.

What is the random walk theory?

The random walk theory does not involve the technical analysis of a stock which uses historical data to predict future prices. Nor is it a fundamental analysis to study the financial health of a company. It is, however, a hypothetical theory that states that the prices of the stock move at random. The random walk theory asserts that stock returns can’t be reliably predicted, and stock movements are just like the ‘steps of a drunk man’, which no one can foretell.

This theory is based on the assumptions that the prices of securities in the market moves at random and the price of one security is completely independent of the prices of the all the other securities.

It’s as random as flipping a coin

A random walk down the wall streetThe concept of random walk theory goes all the way back to a book published in 1834 by Jules Regnault who tried to create a ‘stock exchange science’. This was further developed by Maurice Kendall in a 1953 paper that suggested that share prices moved at random. The hypothesis was popularised by Malkiel in his best selling book A Random Walk Down Wall Street.

To prove his theory Prof. Malkiel conducted a test. He gave his students a hypothetical stock worth $50. At the end of the day, he would flip a coin which would determine the closing price for the stock. Heads meant the closing price would be a half point up while Tails meant the price would be half-price down. This meant there was a 50-50 chance of the price going up or down. Prof. Malkiel and his students tried to determine the market trends from the prices.

Using the results gathered from the test, the professor went to see a chartist. A chartist is a person who predicts future movements in stocks based on past trends and believes that history repeats itself.

Looking at the results, the chartist told the professor to buy the stock immediately. However, the coin flips were random and the stock did not have any historical trend. Prof. Malkiel used this example to argue that movements in the stock market were as random as flipping a coin!

What are the implications of random walk theory?

Many people only invest in a stock because they believe that is worth more than they are paying. However, the random walk theory suggests that is not possible to predict the movement in the stock prices. This means that investors cannot outperform the market in the long-run without taking on an inordinate amount of risk. The only solution is for an investor to invest in a market portfolio (such as an index) which is a representation of the total stock market. Any changes in the stock prices in the market will be reflected in the portfolio.

In addition to this, if the short-term movements of stock are random, investors can no longer buy stocks based on the time-value of money theory. Therefore, a buy and hold strategy will be ineffective as stocks can be bought and sold at any point of time.

Criticisms of the theory

One of the criticisms to the random walk theory is that it ignores the trends in the market and various momentum factors that have an impact on the prices. Many critics say that the price is affected by many trends and very often these trends are very hard to identify and it may take a large amount of historical data and fundamental analysis to figure it out. But just because these trends are hard to recognize, it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

Another criticism states that the stock market is vast and there are a countless number of elements that can have a large impact on stock prices. There a large number of investors in the market and each trader has a different way of trading. Hence, it is likely that trends emerge over a period of time which would allow an investor to earn a return in the market by buying the stock at low prices and selling at high prices.

Also read:

A Non-random walk

As a refute to the random walk theory, there are a number of technical analysts who contend that the price of a stock can be predicted on past trends and historical data. They believe that traders who can analyze these trends and make predictions have the ability to outperform the market with their superior knowledge.

Then there is the luck factor. The random walk theory states that only way a trader can outperform the market is purely by chance. This is an inaccurate statement, however, because there are some traders such as Paul Tudor Jones who managed to continuously outperform the market. It is more likely that technical analysis of the stock market is in play here and not just dumb luck.

However, it is important to remember that technical analysis can only help predict the probable changes in stock prices and not the actual price.

Conclusion

Choosing to trade based on the random walk theory is based on the preferences of each trader. If you believe that stock prices are random, it would be best to invest in a suitable ETF or mutual fund and hope for a bull market. But if you truly believe that trends and predictable and that stocks can be traded based on historical data then you should use your technical and fundamental analysis skills to actively trade in the stock market.

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What is Algorithmic Trading (Algo Trading)? And how it works?

Technological developments help define the future and we tend to rely on them more and more everyday. Investors are no exception to this rule as they use of technology to take advantage of optimal market conditions and earn high returns.

One such technology is algo trading or algorithmic trading which is a type of stock trading that uses statistical models and equations to run trades on a program designed by the user. Algo trading has become more popular in the last few years as it has been made more accessible to investors. It currently comprises of 35-40 per cent of turnover in Indian Stock Exchanges.

What is algorithmic trading?

An Algorithm is a code that is designed to carry out a certain process. Algorithmic trading uses computer programs to initiate trades at high speeds based on preset conditions such as the stock prices or the current market conditions.

The algorithms can include a level of manual intervention or can be fully electronic also known as zero-touch algos. The trades are initiated based on pre-set quantitative factors, arbitrage opportunities and the client’s preference. In India, the most commonly used algo is the Application Program Interface (API) that lets investors choose their strategy and enter in their requirements. The trades are then executed by the brokers.

For instance, algorithmic trading can be used by a trader who might want to implement trades when the stock price reaches a certain point or falls below a certain level. Based on the current market conditions, the algorithm can recommend how many shares to buy or sell. Once the trader enters the program requirements, they can sit back and relax as the trades automatically take place based on the preset conditions.

What are the benefits of algorithmic trading?

Algorithmic trading automates the trading function which is incredibly advantageous to traders. This makes sure that the trades are carried out at the right time during optimal market conditions which increases the chances of high returns. The traders does not face the risk of missing out on important opportunities in the market.

Another key advantage of algorithmic trading is that it removes human emotion from the trading equation as the trades are defined by preset conditions. This is advantageous because human emotions can cause investors to make irrational decisions based on fear and greed.

Algorithmic trading also allows you to backtest. This essentially means that the algorithms can be tested on past data to see if they have worked in the past or not. This is helpful because it lets the user identify any flaws in the trading system before they run the algorithm on live data.

In addition to this, algo trading reduces the time spent analyzing markets and lowers the associated transaction costs. The numerous benefits have made it a popular tool among investors in many stock exchanges today. 

Strategies used in algorithmic trading

Although the computer initiates the trades, the user still has the ability to input the strategy they wish to use. They can decide the volume, the price and at what time the trade should happen. Therefore the algo strategies used by the investors can have a large impact on their earnings. Here are the most common strategies used in algorithmic trading:

Trend based strategies:

One of the most commonly used algo strategies used is trend-based strategies. The involves following the current trends in the market and executing trades based on that. The trader uses technical indicators such as the moving average and the price level of the stock to assess the market and the system generated recommendations to buy or sell required to fulfill the conditions entered by the trader. This is one of the easiest strategies to implement as the figures are based on historical and current trends with no requirement for complex predictions.

Arbitrage strategy:

An arbitrage opportunity exists in the market when there is a difference in the price of securities on two stock exchanges which can result in a risk-free profit. In algo trading, the arbitrage strategy algorithm is used by the computer program to identify the differences in prices and make use of the opportunity in an efficient way.

The speed and accuracy of algo trading comes into play here because the price difference in the stock may not be high but the high volume of trade can lead to a considerable amount of profit. This arbitrage strategy is most commonly used in forex trading.

arbitrage trading

(Image credits: Corporatefinanceinstitute)

Trading Range or Mean Reversion strategy:

Also known as the counter-trend or reversal, this strategy is based on the principle that although prices go up or down, it is only temporary and they eventually come back to their average price. In this strategy, the program identifies the upper and lower limit of the stock and carries out trades when the price goes above or below this range. The algorithm calculates the mean price of the stock based on historical data and when the price goes out of bounds the trade is executed with the expectation that the stock will come back to its average price.

However, this strategy may not always work as the price may not come back to its average price as quick as expected and the moving average can catch up to the price leading to a lower risk to reward ratio.

Also read: How to read stock charts for beginners?

Conclusion

Algorithmic trading was introduced in India in around 2009 and has been growing in popularity due to its low cost and the availability of skilled resources, especially with traders who trade on proprietary books. SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) has also played a positive role in the adoption of algorithmic trading in India which will help further its acceptance and incorporate the trading on a larger scale in stock markets.

Although algorithmic trading is automated, the user still has the authority to choose which strategy to follow depending on various factors. It is especially beneficial for small-time investors who want to increase liquidity in the market making it easy to enter and exit the market while decreasing price inefficiencies in trading stocks.

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How to read stock charts for beginners?

For anyone looking to actively trade in the stock market, it is essential to know how to read stock charts. A stock chart is a chart that shows the price of a stock plotted on a time-frame that can range from minutes to many years. It serves as an important tool for picking the right stocks and easy to find on websites such as Yahoo Finance or Google Finance.

The ticker symbol of a company can help you find its stock chart. The ticker is a series of letters found in a company’s name (Apple= AAPL). Stock charts can help you identify stock price movements and make decisions on whether to enter, buy, sell or exit the trade.

When you first look at the chart

Stock charts come in various forms, they can be candle charts, bar charts or line charts.

In addition to the view of a stock chart, you also get to pick the time frame. The most commonly used ones are intraday, weekly, monthly, year-to-date (YTD), 5 years, 10 years or even a complete history of the stock.

how to read chart 1-min

(Stocktrader.com)

Once you have picked the chart view and time-frame, it is now time to understand the various features of a chart. For demonstration purposes, we can look at a candlestick chart.

On a candlestick chart, the red candles show downward price movement, while the white (or green) candles show an upward price movement. The chart has numerous technical indicators such as the moving average index (MA), the relative strength index (RSI) and the moving average convergence divergence index (MACD). These technical indicators are used to analyze future price movements.

Support and Resistance lines

how to read chart support and resistance

(Image credits: BabyPips)

The next step is to look for the support and resistance lines. As the name suggests, the resistance line indicates a point which resists the price from rising further. It shows the maximum supply for a stock where the level is always above the current market price. There is a great probability that the stock would rise up to the resistance level, absorb the supply and then decline. For traders, the resistance line is an indicator to sell.

Alternatively, the support line indicates a point that stops a price from falling lower. It shows the maximum demand for a stock in the market. There is a high chance that a stock price will reach the support line, absorb all the demand and then bounce back. The support line is a signal to buy stock.

Below the stock chart is a window that shows the trading volume of the stock. The volume shows how much of the stock has been traded over a period of time. The green bars show the greater buying volume days and the red bar shows the greater selling volume days.

how to read chart

(Image credits: Investors Underground)

Why is the volume important?

The volume of a stock is an important indicator of whether or not to invest in a stock. This is because the trading volume is influenced by the buying and selling of stocks done by big traders, large investment banks, mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). It can be the high-value trading done by these large firms that causes the price of a stock to go up or down.

An individual investor can use the volume as an indicator of buying or selling stock, forecasting future price trends and identifying the support and resistance level. When there is a bullish market- that is investors are optimistic and expect the prices to rise- there is high volume trading on up days and low volume trading on low days. However, during a bear market- when investors are less optimistic- there is high volume trading on down days and low volume trading on up days.

how to read chart

(Investopedia)

Other technical indicators

In order to better understand the price movements and trends in a stock chart, investors use a variety of technical indicators. One such indicator is the 200-day moving average which is a stock’s average closing price in the last 200 days. A high 200-day average signifies a bullish market while a low 200-day average shows a bearish market. In reality, however, when the 200-day average is extremely high it is a sign that the market may soon go down and that investors are far too optimistic and when the 200-day average is low it signifies the reverse. The shorter the moving average, the greater the change in the market.

The 200-day average indicates whether a stock is healthy or not and is often compared to the 50-day moving average. When a stock in the 50 day moving average crosses the 200-day moving average, it achieves the ‘golden cross’ status. That is the stock may go up to a much higher price. On the flip-side, if a stock in 50-day moving average goes below the 200-day moving average, it is known as the ‘death cross’. This means there is a good chance the price of the stock will go down in the future. Technical indicators are used in conjunction with momentum indicators to analyze the direction and strength of a stock’s price movement.

Understand the overall trend of the stock

When looking at a stock chart it is important to understand the upward and downward trend of a stock but you also need to analyze the background of the stock as well. This involves understanding how a particular stock usually trends- does it have low price movements or is it constantly volatile?

Another factor to consider is the possibility of the trends reversing. Momentum indicators such as Relative Strength Index (RSI) or MACD can help identify if a stock has reached its peak giving investors the opportunity to exit the market. Understanding these trends can help you make better decisions about what stocks to purchase.

Also read: Fundamental vs Technical Analysis of Stocks

Conclusion

Knowing how to read stock charts is important for any trader. It provides perspective on the price movements of stocks and will help you make better decisions to improve profitability. Hopefully, this guide gives you a better understanding of how to read stock charts before you start trading. Always remember, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

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How Does The Government Control Inflation?

We cannot minimize the explosive effects of inflation. High inflation has the ability to topple governments, ruin nations and reduce economic growth. It discourages savings and reduces the overall productivity in the country. In its creepiest form, inflation can reduce the purchasing power of people, this means the pensions and savings of people can now buy less than it did before.

In response to this, governments have many powerful tools they can use to control the rate of inflation in the economy. These policies have been discussed in detail in this article.

What is inflation?

Inflation can be described as a continuous increase in the general level of prices. In some cases, inflation can be used to encourage spending in the economy. However, this is not always the case as inflation can often get out of hand and the purchasing power of people drastically decreases. The government will then have to intervene to create balance in the economy.

Inflation can be measured using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The bureau of labour statistics chooses close to 500,000 products from more than a 100 categories which are included into a ‘basket’. The prices of the goods are used to calculate the price index.

Effects of inflation

Inflation, depending on its severity, has the ability to disrupt economies. There is an uneven distribution of income that can affect many sectors in the economy. They are discussed as follows:  

— Effect on various economic groups- If there is low inflation in the economy, job seekers can benefit from this as increased demand will lead to a rise in employment. However, an unhealthy level of inflation can be disastrous for the economy as people pull their money out of financial institutions and their purchasing power reduces.

— Government spending- During inflation, the government, like individuals, have to pay more for wages and supplies. In order to raise more revenue the government can increase taxes but people will may have the ability to pay for them and some groups will be affected more than others.

— Savings and Investment- If inflation is on the rise, it is not a great time for savers as the decrease in the value of money reduces the value of savings. Many people move their investments to stocks and property during inflation. It is a favorable time for borrowers because the value of the money they owe reduces.

How Does The Government Control Inflation?

If the rate of inflation in the economy goes beyond a rate that is uncontrollable, the government has to intervene with policies to help stabilize the economy. Since inflation is the result of too much expenditure on the economy, the policies are created to restrict the growth of money. There are three ways the government can control the inflation- the monetary policy, the fiscal policy, and the exchange rate. They are discussed as follows.

— The Monetary Policy

Monetary policy is a tool used by the government to control the amount of money circulated in the economy. This includes paper money, coins and bank deposits held by businesses and individuals in the economy. Monetary policy uses interest rates to control the quantity of money in the economy.

— Open market operations

When there is high inflation in the economy, the amount of money created by financial institutions needs to be restricted. The Federal Reserve Bank lowers the supply of money by selling their large securities to the public, specifically to security dealers. The buyers pay for the securities by writing checks on the deposits they hold in the commercial banks. This is an effective way to control the supply of money as the deposits of the commercial banks at the Federal Reserve Bank are the legal reserve for the banks. With the sale of securities, the banks are forced to restrict their lending and security buying, therefore reducing the quantity of money in the economy.

— Increasing the reserve requirement

The reserve requirement refers to the amount of money that the commercial banks are required to have on deposit with the Federal Reserve Bank. A low reserve requirement means banks have more money to lend out which can increase the money supply. But when there is high inflation in the economy, the government increases the reserve requirement which restrains the growth of money and even reduces it.

— The rediscount rate

The rediscount rate is the rate of interest charged by the commercial banks. The commercial banks borrow from the Federal Reserve in exchange for a promissory note. In exchange, the Federal Bank increases the deposit of the bank. The rediscount rate controls the cost to banks for adding additional reserves. When inflation is high the bank increases the rediscount rate, which makes it more expensive for banks to buy reserves. This cost is usually translated to customers in the form of high interest rates on loans borrowed from commercial banks which ultimately reduces the supply of money in the economy. In order to control the supply of money in the economy with the monetary policy, the rediscount rate is used in conjunction with the reserve requirement and sale of securities.

— Fiscal policy

The Fiscal policy uses government spending and taxation to control the supply of money in the economy. The policy was designed by John Maynard Keynes who studied the relationship between aggregate spending and the amount of economic activity in society. He also claimed that government spending can be used to control aggregate demand.

— The decrease in government spending

Sending by the government constitutes a large part of the circular flow of income in the economy. During periods of high inflation, the government can reduce the spending to decrease the amount of money in circulation. In many instances, high government spending is the root cause of inflation. However, it is often hard for governments to differentiate between essential and non-essential expenditure so, the spending policy should be augmented by taxation.

— Increase in taxes

An increase in the level of taxes reduces the amount of money that people have to spend on good and services. The effect of the tax can vary with the kind of tax imposed, but any increase in tax would reduce spending in the economy. An increase in tax combined with a decrease in government spending can have a double-barrelled effect on the supply of money in the economy.

— Increase in savings

Another theory derived by Keynes was his belief in compulsory savings or deferred payments. In order to achieve this, the government should introduce public loans with a high rate of interest, attractive saving schemes and provident or pension funds. These measures lock people’s income into savings accounts for an extended period of time and are an effective way to control inflation.

Also read:

Conclusion

Inflation can have a major impact on the economy and can affect the government, investments and the purchasing power of people. A high rate of inflation for an extended period of time can lead an economy into a recession. Fortunately, the government has the ability to use the monetary and fiscal policies to help control the supply of money in the economy. When used in the conjunction, the policies can help achieve a lower rate of inflation and a more stabilized and balanced economy.

how to retire early

Want to Retire Early? Now You Can!

Retire early, get financial freedom and travel the world!- It’s the common cubicle dream. But there are in fact many ways a person can make this a reality. Joining the FIRE movement which stands for ‘financially independent, retire early’ is not that hard provided you make the right financial moves while working a 9-5 job. FIRE has defined early retirement as not just leaving work but as gaining the financial freedom to pursue your passion projects and follow your dreams.

Retiring early, however, takes a lot of work and therefore many people find it challenging to achieve this. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to work in a certain high-salaried job or industry to retire early, anyone who has the long-term goal of retiring early can make it happen. With strong resolve and the right strategies, you can turn your dream into a reality. The key steps to early retirement are discussed below:

Track your expenses and make the necessary changes to your budget:

One of the most important things to do in order to meet all your financial goals, be it early retirement or buying a new home, is to analyze your current spending.

No matter how you look at it, you need to make changes to your current spending in order to achieve your dream of retiring early. This could even mean drastically reducing your spending. There are a slew of apps today that can help you track your expenses such as LearnVest or Penny. Most people with the goal of retiring early, aim to spend less than 50% of their income and put the rest into savings.

There are many ways you can work towards increasing your savings. If you are in debt, work towards aggressively paying off the loans so that any income you make in the future can be put directly towards savings. In addition to this, you can also cut back on unnecessary expenses such as that excessive coffee or those frequent restaurant dinners. You can also try and increase your income through side gigs or freelancing opportunities. If your goal is to retire early, frugal living should be your motto.

Also check: 10 best Android budget apps for money management

Make your money work for you:

In other words, invest aggressively! The longer the amount of time, you allow your money to grow, the greater the rewards. Hence, it only makes sense that you start investing at the start of your career. Early retirement essentially means that you have a shorter amount of time to save money but a longer amount of time that the money has to last you so make investment your best friend.

Design your portfolio in a way that will generate long-term returns. While stocks can be a risky investment, in the long-term they produce very high returns. If you look at the historic analysis of the Indian stock market, taking into consideration its various downturns, the market barometer NIFTY 50 has averaged a little higher than 10.84% annually since inception. This means if you put a majority of your savings into an index fund, there is a good chance you’ll receive an annual return of 10.5%.

Many people assume you should look for low-risk investments options when investing for the retirement fund. But this is an inaccurate assumption. Investing in low-cost investment funds is recommended when you are near the retirement age, as you need to move some of your money into more liquid investments so that you don’t have to worry about the investments selling options when you need it.

Calculate how much money you need for retirement:

Planning for the future is the most important strategy when it comes to retirement. That is you need to estimate what your retirement spending will look like. To do this, you should analyze your current spending and look at what expenses will go up, down, added, subtracted or eliminated completely.

A few things to consider are your health insurance and rent. Many companies offer health insurance as part of the employment package, but for retirement, you need to make sure to factor in this expense. Another large expense is your monthly rent. If you hope to own a home before retirement, this should not be a problem but if you plan to rent, you need to make sure to include this in your retirement expense.

Also read: 6 Reasons Why You Should Get Health Insurance

financial freedom

Start saving as early as possible:

The earlier you start saving money, the more you would have accumulated when you decide to retire. Hence, if you start putting money away from the start of your career, there is a higher chance you can exit the workforce earlier. There is a rule of 25 that states that you need to have 25 times your planned annual spending when you retire. That is if you plan to spend $35,000 during the first year of retirement, you need to have a total of $875,000 when you retire.

The second rule of saving is the 4% rule which states that you can take out 4% of your invested savings during your first year of retirement and continue to draw out that same amount adjusted for inflation for the following years. This strategy was developed in the 1990s and was based on historical market conditions.

While neither of these strategies is fool-proof, they are considered reasonable when it comes to saving. Moreover, it is imperative to remain conservative with your savings when it comes to retirement.

Conclusion

The FIRE (financially independent, retire early) dream may seem a distant reality for many but with a little planning and smart financial moves, it can become a reality. But it also helps to rethink what early retirement means, it’s not always fancy cruises and dinners. For some, it could mean spending more time with your grandchildren or significant others.

Whatever it may be, as long as it is important to you to live by your own schedule and not that of the employers, you should diligently work towards getting out of the workforce early using the strategies listed above. Remember to start saving early because running out of money means running back to work.

deep value investing cover

What is Deep Value Investing?

Deep value investing is an intense version of value investing which focuses on buying stocks at a much higher discount to intrinsic value in comparison to value investing. This results in an increase in the potential reward and risk of the investment.

Background

Traditional value investors have the belief that the market will misjudge stock prices in the short-term and hence they prefer to conduct their own fundamental analysis on stocks that they feel may be undervalued. They first determine the intrinsic value of these stocks and compare it with their current market value. Value investors usually invest in stocks where the market value is below its intrinsic value.

Nonetheless, value investors don’t invest in every undervalued stock they come across as each investor has a different level of margin of safety with regards to the market price and intrinsic value. The major difference between value and deep value investing is that deep value investors require a higher margin of safety.

This high margin of safety means that the return potential of the stock will be high but the risk associated with the stock increases as well. Hence deep value investing is usually followed by those investors who understand their strategies and can fully trust their investment decisions.

Benjamin’s Graham’s deep value investment philosophy

Benjamin Graham defined intrinsic value as the value that a businessman places on a business. He believed it was more important to assess the true value of a company based on the numbers present on financial statements such as the assets, earnings, and dividends. He would use these figures to come up with the fair value of the stock. (Also read: How to Find Intrinsic Value of Stocks Using Graham Formula?)

However, Graham would only buy the stock if it was discounted at 1/3rd (or more) of its intrinsic value. For example, if the intrinsic value of a stock calculated by Benjamin Graham turns out to be at $162, then he would only consider purchasing that stock if it is trading at $108 or less.

Anyways, there are multiple calculation methods that investors can use when valuing stocks such as Discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis, dividend discount model (DDM) and relative valuation tools like the price to earnings, price to book value or price to sales.

How do deep value investors assess the fair value of the stock?

Deep value investors usually buy stock in companies that trade below their liquidation value-although finding such companies is rare. In assessing the fair value of the stock, deep value investors use valuation methods that range in their level of conservativeness. Following are the ways, deep value investors assess the fair value of a company’s stock:

  • Most of the low conservative deep investors look at the future earnings of a company ignoring the fact whether the company has a competitive advantage or not. However, there are also a few investors in this group who look at the firm’s competitive advantage which can be used in the future to earn much higher returns.
  • Slightly conservative deep investors look at the firm’s ability to produce a profit. The earning power of the company is mostly determined based on past earnings with reference to price to earnings (PE) ratio.
  • Highly conservative deep investors look at the book value which involves looking at all the assets held by the company to determine its fair value. They also check Net current asset value, Networking capital and dividends.

Deep value investors use highly conservative strategies the most when looking for stocks that are traded at very low prices.

Deep value Returns

If you are a new investor, you need to use simple strategies that yield the highest return. In other words- deep value is the way to go. Deep value investing in coherence with traditional investing can help an investor earn very high returns. When conducting a conservative assessment of stock value, those stocks with a low price relative to book and current asset value generate very high returns. But remember with higher reward come higher risk.

Deep value Risk

The major risk involved in deep value investing is ending up in a value trap. This is where a stock may seem to be a good investment based on a quantitative analysis with financial ratios like low PE, low price to book value. However, the investor may overlook the ‘qualitative’ factors associated with the stock.

There is often an underlying reason why such stocks trade at a low price. It could be the result of problems with the management of the company or the lack of growth potential. There can be a fundamental problem in the company that is not reflected in its finances. Whatever it may be, an investor needs to be able to spot the reason for the low stock price. If they fail to do so, they end up in a value trap.

Also read:

Conclusion

Deep value investing can reap high rewards if you are willing to take the risk. A deep value stock usually exists when the company is in a difficult situation. It may take time for the company to recover and eventually generate returns. However, as with any investment, you need to be patient.

Monte Carlo Simulation Cover

Monte Carlo Simulation -How can it help investors?

We face an element of risk in almost every decision we make which often leaves us feeling uncertain and ambiguous. Although we have unparalleled access to information, we can never predict the future. A method that can help ease this risk is the Monte Carlo simulation that allows you to see all the possible outcomes of a decision and its associated risk. It can help you, as an investor, to make better decisions at uncertain times.

Background

The Monte Carlo simulation was developed in the 1940s by Stanislaw Ullam, a brilliant Polish-American mathematician who was in charge of the Manhattan Project (R&D for WWII nuclear weapons). While recovering from a brain surgery Stanislaw spent many hours playing solitaire. He was soon drawn to trying to devise the game through the distribution of cards and predict the probability of winning.

Stanislaw’s analysis of trying to predict the outcomes led him to develop the Monte Carlo simulation. It was named after the glamorous gambling casinos of Monaco, France.

What is the Monte Carlo Simulation?

The Monte Carlo approach is a computer-based method that uses statistical sampling to build a model of a possible range of results (a probability distribution) for those factors that have an element of uncertainty.

The results for the uncertain elements are calculated over and over using a set of random values at each time. The values entered as samples into the simulation as input ate chosen at random from the probability of income distribution. These sample sets are called iterations. The simulation produces a distribution of possible outcomes and these outcomes are recorded.

The Monte Carlo simulation is used by many different sectors and industries from project management to energy and engineering. But it is especially applicable to the finance and business sectors due to its emphasis on random variables. The simulation can be used to calculate the probability that the costs of a certain project will exceed its budget and the probability that the price of an asset will go up or down.

In addition to this, the model can be used to determine the investment default risk and assess the performance of derivatives such as options.

Why should we use the Monte Carlo Simulation?

Simply put, the Monte Carlo simulation helps you make better decisions. It helps predict future outcomes based on different scenarios. The technique used in the simulation allows us to measure the risk in quantitative analysis. In addition to providing the outcomes in a given scenario, it lets us know the likelihood of each outcome occurring.

In terms of investing, the Monte Carlo simulation lets us identify all the risks associated with a particular investment. It gives us a range of outcomes so it can show you outcomes for conservative investments and incredibly risky ones. There is also a middle ground for the portfolio which is the outcome of a neutral investment and is particularly useful to investors who want to assess the risk of options.

How is the Monte Carlo Simulation useful to investors?

The Monte Carlo simulation helps investors assess their portfolios and make investment decisions. Modern technology has now made it easy to perform a Monte Carlo simulation with the just a few clicks. The investor needs to enter a relevant time period between 1-25 years along with a downside floor constraint or an upper target value.

The simulator then generates 10,000 possible outcomes by playing out each simulated version in the future from the lowest to the highest risk based on values entered. However, it is important to remember that the simulator does not take into consideration real-world events such as crashes or unexpected events. Reality can differ from the simulator but it is still a powerful tool in understanding the trade-off between risk and the upside.

There are many websites that can help you perform a Monte Carlo simulation such as Vanguard that offers a ‘Retirement Nest Egg Calculator’. Vanguard uses the Monte Carlo simulation to provide the possible outcomes of a retirement portfolio. It takes into account your balance sheet, spending, and asset allocation and tries to determine the probability that your investment revenue will last the duration of your retirement.

Vanguard Monte Carlo Simulation Retirement Nest Egg Calculator

(Image Credits: Vanguard)

Another great website is Personal Capital that also uses the Monte Carlo simulation to assess portfolios. The tool calculates the standard deviation and annual returns on the portfolio based on set targets. The result provides you with three market scenarios, the best possible case, the worst possible case and midpoint between the two. The tool aims to show how a diversified portfolio can be catastrophic when there is a bad market.

Disadvantages of the Monte Carlo simulation

Like all things, the Monte Carlo simulation has its shortcomings as well because no one can predict the future. The simulations are particularly disadvantageous during a bear market. This is because the outcomes are based on constant volatility and can create a false sense of security for the investors. In reality, however, stock markets are very unpredictable and the Monte Carlo simulation does not hold good for these scenarios.

Moreover, the simulation is unable to factor in the behavioral aspect of the stock market. The Monte Carlo simulation could not predict accurate outcomes during the volatile stock markets of 2008. Therefore the simulations only show an approximation of the true value and can sometimes show very large variances.

Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Walter Schloss Investing

Conclusion

The Monte Carlo simulation is used by many investors to gauge the performance of their investments so they can make more informed decisions.

While you cannot trust the outcomes of the simulation with complete certainty, they do provide a viable way to understand the trade-off between risk and investment. It is a great tool for advisors when assessing the potential risks associated with the client’s portfolio. By changing the investment horizon and the upper and lower targets of the simulation, you can have a better understanding of how you can affect and change the outcome of your future investments.